Cuil First Impressions

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By now, I would imagine that everyone in the SEO world has at least heard of the new startup search engine called Cuil (pronounced “cool”).  It is run by some former Google employees, uses different  algorithms and shows the results in a layout similar to a magazine or newspaper.

cuil search engine As one might expect, an announcement of a new search engine has created a pretty good buzz around the Internet, but many searchers using Cuil are less than impressed.  You can easily find comments about it taking minutes to return results and about it returning zero results for popular terms.  Many of the feedback that I have seen has been quite negative, which one might expect in today’s “instant gratification” Internet where you have only seconds to make an impression.

However,  I tend to be ever-so-slightly enthused with Cuil for two basic reasons:

  • The are at least trying to come up with a new way of presenting results and are supposedly indexing more of the web than Google (although I have not heard Google making any claims as to how many pages it indexes).
  • Their GUI is somewhat refreshing.  I like the colors and I like the “Explore by Category” box that breaks down information related to your search into categories.  I think the entire interface is well done.

Having said that, I certainly think that the returned results leave something to be desired.  Many of the searches that I did returned completely unrelated results on the first page, which would indicate an issue with the ranking algorithms.  I am sure they will sort that out, but I can’t help but wonder how much testing they did before launch.  For example, a search for “cuil search engine” on Cuil will not even list cuil.com in the search results.  Hmm.

Another issue is the slow response time for some searches.  It would appear that their servers are not currently up to the challenge of being a real threat to Google, or even Yahoo! or MSN.

Those last two points make me wonder how much testing they did and how exhaustive it really was.  One would think that success in those two areas would be the very foundation of a modern search engine and, therefore, would be top priority.  But maybe it was just a case of first day jitters.

All-in-all, I think it is unfortunate that there has been so much negative publicity surrounding Cuil.  They have some bugs to work out and that is to be expected.   I think that their algorithm will get smarter and their servers’ response times will improve.  In fact, a few of the searches that I tried early yesterday, which returned woefully unrelated results, were vastly improved when I tried them last night.  That is a step in the right direction and I would expect that things will get better.

Google competitor?  Not at the moment.  Threat to Google?  Not at the moment.  Should Yahoo! and MSN pay attention?  Not right now, but don’t get too comfortable.

TechCrunch and Search Engine Land have some extensive reviews of Cuil.

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